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The List

A selection of my books

So as previously mentioned. whilst I haven’t been reviewing much since lockdown I have still read quite alot, 33 books and 7 audio books to be precise.

There is part of me that for a split second seriously thought I would try and review all of the books I’ve read. However I soon realised that that was just a silly idea, even if I could remember them in enough detail it would be like painting the Forth Bridge, by the time I reviewed one another would be finished. Therefore I’m just going to list them here and move on.

So here they all are in no particular order. I have to say I enjoyed them all (I’m afraid life is too short to finish books I’m not enjoying) although some stand out more than others. The Last by Hanna Jameson is certainly memorable, I’m not sure reading a book about a group of survivors locked in a hotel after the world has ended is the best choice during a full lockdown! The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters, whilst not crime, was definitely one of the highlights, as was Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver. They are two I’d highly recommend, as I would the whole Susie Steiner series.

Overall I think I was pretty lucky with my choices of books during lockdown. Whilst I may not have done anything useful with my time like learn a language, or master the art of taxidermy I did manage to reduce my to be read pile significantly. Although this has led to me learning a new word – Abibliophobia. Apparently it is a fear of running out of reading material. As I live in York and we are heading into lockdown part 2 I can confirm this is definitely a real thing! Time to restock I think.

The List (23rd March – 8th October)

1 Susie Steiner – Remain Silent
2 Jessica Barry – Freefall
3 Helen Fitzgerald – Worse Case Scenario
4 Hanna Jameson – The Last
5 Christian White – The Nowhere Child
6 Joshilyn Jackson – Never Have I Ever
7 Balli Kaur Jaswal – Unlikely adventures of the Shergill Sisters
8 Bruce Goldfare – 18 Tiny Deaths
9 Alison Belshaw – The Tattoo Thief

10 J.S Monroe – Forget My Name
11 Julia Dahl – Conviction
12 Noir at the Bar
13 Tanen Jones – The Better Liar
14 Michael Donkor – Hold
15 Jane Harper – The Lost Man
16 Amrou Al-Kadhi – Life as a Unicorn
17 AJ Parker – The First Lie
18 Isobel Ashdown – The Lake Child
19 Afraid of the Light
20 Emily St John M – Station Eleven
21 Fiona Cummins – When I was ten
22 Louise Beech – I Am Dust
23 Tarryn Fisher – The Wives
24 Will Carver – Nothing Important Happened Today
25 Denise Mina – Conviction
26 Amanda Robson – My Darling
27 S J Watson – Final Cut
28 John Marrs – The Minders
29 Rod Reynolds – Blood Red City
30 Rachell Amphlett – Turn to Dust
31 Sherryl Clark – Dead and Gone
32 Kjell Ola Dahl – Sister
33 C L Taylor – Strangers
34 Nell Pattinson – Silent House

On top of those I also listened to a few audio books:
35 David Jackson – The Resident
36 Louise Candlish – The Other Passenger
37 Erin Kelly – We know You Know
38 John Marrs – What Lies Between Us
39 Lisa Jewell – Watching You
40 Phillippa East – Little White Lies
41 Lisa Jewell – One-hit Wonder

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Cakes and Mistakes

Well as you may have noticed I have been rather absent when it comes to this blog, and there has been a distinct lack of reviews. In fact since lockdown I haven’t really done any reviewing except for blog tours (and even then I’ve managed to miss a few and in one case post on the wrong day – sorry all lovely blog tour organisers!) During lockdown I have certainly not stopped reading, in fact I have made decent in-roads into my To Be Read pile. For some reason I have just been woefully lacking in motivation to sit  down and write.

Partly I blame the whole working from home situation. For me working from home has both good and bad sides. On the plus side I like not having to get up early and make myself look presentable (yes I am one of those who only straighten the front of my hair for zoom calls, in fact the back of my hair was bright purple for a while) I also like having flexibility in terms of hours, and found it gave me time to do things such as a lunchtime yoga class and clean the kitchen (It’s all rock and roll here)

However there has also been downsides. Having access to the fridge at all times means I end up having cheese on toast as a snack, and baking cakes for elevenses whereas at work I’d have an apple and a salad. Working on the kitchen table means everything takes twice the time it should do as I spend half my time looking out of the window watching what the rest of the street are doing. The main downside being however that I find after a day staring at a laptop on the aforementioned kitchen table, the last thing I want to then do is spend the evening staring at it again to catch up on reviews. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like this, but it is a shame.

However now that we have moved back into the office part time things should start to improve. Of course working in the office has it’s own issues. There is a new habit at my place of all eating lunch together (socially distanced of course) which is quite nice, but it’s going on for an hour and a half, that’s just too much forced social time for my liking. There is also tape all over the floor to ensure that we socially distance correctly. I know it’s good that it is being taken seriously but honestly at the top of one stair case in order to keep behind the tape you have to stand on tip toes with your nose pressed againt the wall. We do all have our own coffee making facilities now though which is a bonus.

Hopefully being back in the office will mean things at home get back to a bit of a more normal routine. If nothing else I think I’ll give up my baking experiments and give that time back to reviewing. I suspect both Mr F and the pigeons in the garden who end up eating most of them are all going to be happy about that!

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Harrogate International Festivals – HIF weekender online

Clearly there has been lots of things that people are missing due to the current situation, for me one of those things is of course the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival (TOPCWF) However I’m pleased to say that Harrogate International Festivals (HIF) are come through for us yet again, and they are offering a fantastic free virtual HIF weekender!

To us Crime Fiction Fans the TOPCWF is the highlight of Harrogate (alongside a Betty’s fat rascal) however that is actually just a small part of the amazing events that Harrogate has and we are being given the chance to see offerings from across the board at the end of July. See below for more details of this exciting weekend which of course includes some of the best of Crime Fiction writer’s today, including festival favourites Mark Billingham and Val McDermid. I can’t wait!

Harrogate, Thursday 2 July 2020: Harrogate International Festivals is thrilled to announce first names for its new, free virtual festival bringing world-class culture to everyone at home, the HIF Weekender.

From 23 to 26 July, the HIF Weekender will present a celebration of the arts, featuring performances and interviews with internationally acclaimed musicians, best-selling authors and innovative thinkers to coincide with what would have been the legendary long weekend of Harrogate’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.

The HIF Weekender begins with a bang, crowning the winner of the UK’s most prestigious crime fiction prize – Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year – in a virtual ceremony recognising the best of the best. The celebrations continue with crime writing royalty Ian Rankin, who was set to be the 2020 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Programming Chair, interviewed by N. J. Cooper about Rebus, writing and Rankin’s ‘lost’ festival year. Lee Child will reflect on his extraordinary career with fellow author Joseph Finder, and Mark Billingham on the 20th anniversary of his iconic detective Tom Thorne and debut novel Sleepy Head. Steve Mosby will be joined by AA DhandEmma Kavanagh and Amanda Jennings to explore what it means to be a crime writer in the age of pandemic and why the genre has dominated reading lockdown reading habits, and Steve Cavanagh and Luca Veste are set to present a virtual version of their popular podcast Two Crime Writers & A Microphone for the weekend.

Queen of crime Val McDermid will be joined by journalist and broadcaster Mark Lawson to unpack the heritage and impact of her infamous New Blood panel, discussing the vital role this showcase has played in shaping bookshelves and literary careers, how trends have changed over the past 17 years, as well as giving a peek behind the scenes into has she selects her chosen four… all before welcoming this year’s formidable debut talent to share the virtual stage: Deepa Anappara, Elizabeth Kay, Jessica Moor and Trevor Wood.

For centuries music has provided refuge in times of crisis and Harrogate International Festivals has taken the bold step of commissioning a new work to premiere during the HIF Weekender, in a statement demonstrating the Festival’s commitment to supporting the arts scene and the artistic community at this precarious time.

Highly respected, Yorkshire based composer David Lancaster was commissioned by the Festival following the cancellation of the Summer Season. Inspired by the pandemic, Lancaster’s piece for brass band Eclipse was scored in just five days and represents the darkness and danger facing the arts at this time, with an invitation to remain hopeful until the light returns. The Festival has brought together musicians from around the world – from young players starting out on their journey to professionals at very top of their careers – to come together digitally as a community on the hallowed Harrogate stage for a collaborative world premiere led by acclaimed virtuoso trumpeter Mike Lovatt.

Jazz maestro Mischa Mullov-Abbado – who has also been commissioned by the Festival for new work premiering this autumn – is welcomed as a Guest Curator for the festival weekend, as well as performing with theMischa Mullov-Abbado Group. Reflecting the Festival’s dedication to championing new talent, Mullov-Abbado has handpicked some of the most exciting contemporary young musicians to join the line-up: rising stars and former finalists from the BBC Young Jazz Musician of The Year,Sean Payne and Noah Stoneman.

There will be a host of further classical performances from world renowned musicians including distinguished British cellist Steven Isserlis, the Navarra String Quartet, multi-award-winning concerto violinist Tasmin Little, Tehran born harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani – a three time nominee for Gramophone’s Artist of the Year – as well as a raft of emerging artists: pianist George Harliono, who was recentlyshortlisted for Classical BRIT Award, Argentinian composer and pianist Silas Bassa, violin and piano duo Abigail Hammett and Iwan Owen, and tenor saxophonist Rachael Green.

For folk fans BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award nominees Granny’s Attic are on hand to entertain, or if rave and house music is more your scene, Graeme Park – the DJ responsible legendary Hacienda in Manchester and at the heart of the cultural boom of Cool Britannia – will be joining the line up with a live DJ set and interview, so be sure to have your disco ball ready at home.

Alongside mesmerising music and first-class fiction, the HIF Weekender presents a series of cultural conversations with the best in the business including celebrated conductor Ben Palmer,Deutsche Philharmonie Merck in Darmstadt, and Founder and Artistic Director of Covent Garden Sinfonia; theatre maker and co-director of the Fun Palaces campaign, Stella Duffy, will be discussing the state of the arts in lockdown; newsreader and presenter John Suchet will reveal the man behind the music with his compelling biography of Beethoven; and one of the UKs most prolific and successful writers – Anthony Horowitz – will be sharing  anecdotes from his career, celebrating 10 years of Alex Rider and giving an early glimpse at his new novel Moonflower Murders.

As part of the Festival’s Berwins Salon North strand of TED-style talks designed to change your life for the better, the weekender welcomes geneticist, author, and broadcaster Adam Rutherford to advise on How to Argue with a Racist, BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind Claudia Hammondwill explain why we should be talking rest seriously, and astrobiology research scientist Lewis Dartnell will tell the virtual audience the ultimate origin story.

And not forgetting little ones, in addition to the host of activities and resources on the Festival’s HIF Player, the HIF Weekender will be introducing children to brass music with Back Chat Kids, sharing singalongs with Family Singing Sessions and History’s Maid Kate Vigurs will be revealing the horribly entertaining parts of history that children love!

Since 1966, Harrogate International Festivals has proved an artistic force to be reckoned with, presenting inspiring and ambitious cultural experiences in the most interesting spaces across Harrogate and the region, dedicated to its charitable purpose of ensuring as many people as possible have access to the arts. This commitment now takes the Festival to our digital doorstep, but for those unable to connect HIF has created a CD version of the weekender available to the public. The festival is also hosting a colourful window campaign to spread joy on the streets of Harrogate and brighten up the #ViewFromMyWindow, as well as live performances from the Band on a Bus helping residents stay upbeat and merry, and etchings of 10 Word Crime Stories as a nod to Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime  Writing Festival.

Sharon Canavar, CE of Harrogate International Festivals, said: “Out of crisis comes creativity, and Harrogate International Festivals is delighted to present a world-class line-up for our first virtual HIF Weekender. Bucking the trend, we have opened our digital doors and wallets to fund artists and commission new work, knowing the transformative value that the arts bring in supporting communities – both locally and for our international audience. Whilst there is no denying that this is a hugely challenging time for the arts and for artists, festivals play a vital part in the creative industries ecology and defining our cultural landscape, and so we are extremely proud to be presenting this rich selection to our audiences world-wide for free, ensuring the arts remain accessible to all at a time when we need it the most.”

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Blood Red City by Rod Reynolds – a review BLOG TOUR

I have read previous novels by Rod Reynolds and so was delighted to be invited onto the blog tour for his latest Blood Red City.

Blood Red City starts with Lydia being sent a video of an apparent assault on the tube. The sender of the video is a friend who left the paper under a cloud. Lydia has recently been relegated to the night shift entertainment slot but at heart she is still a serious investigative journalist and thinks this could be the story to restart her career. She sets out to track down the victim of the assault but with no victim and the only witness disappeared she begins to think she may be being led down the garden path. Michael however knows that something went on and he is determined to find out what Lydia has found out before he is exposed. When Michael and Lydia meet, she soon realises that she couldn’t have begun to predict just what a dangerous situation she has put herself in.

Set in London Blood Red City is a book that definitely deserves the accolade ‘gritty thriller’. The story shows us the dark side of London and the battles to keep control. The novel starts off with a great hook, a crime that might not be a crime, and doesn’t let up throughout as we discover corruption and violence lurking just beneath the surface of our capital city.

I really liked the character of Lydia. A lot of the time female protagonists are either written as weak and indecisive, or conversely whisky swigging, don’t care about anything types. Lydia however just seemed normal, she made some bad decisions but also some good ones and she was clearly good at her job. The character of Michael was harder to pin down, throughout the story you get the impression of there being two sides to him and it’s not clear if he wants to protect or to harm Lydia.

The story itself is full of twists and turns that I found impossible to predict. There are some very unpleasant characters in it and each time you think that you have a handle on what is going on another red herring is thrown in. It is a complement to the standard of the writing however that despite the twists it doesn’t get complicated. It is a fascinating story that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I would definitely recommend Blood Red City if you like gritty drama where the setting is as important as the characters.

Don’t forget to visit the other stops on the blog tour to find out what other bloggers thought of Rod Reynold’s latest.

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